Monday, February 29, 2016

TCEA 16 - Google Sites

If you district is a GAfE district and doesn't have a classroom website system in place, give Google Sites a try. It is very easy to get started with a hub for your classroom communication.

At TCEA I was fortunate to sit in on Christy Fennewald's session on Advanced Google Sites. You can find Christy a, on her blog at, and on Twitter @christyfenne. If you are into Google she is one to follow. Her information is great and straight forward for all to understand.

From her session, she shared two of her presentation about sites.

Here is her recent blog post about her TCEA presentation.

During her advanced session, she offered many great tips to make your site better. Here are a few that I was able to jot down.

  1. No more than 5 links across the top.
  2. Don't do drop down menus because that is harder to access on a mobile device.
  3. Make an image map using Google Drawings.
  4. It is usually better to make your site from scratch, but admins could make a template for their teachers to use.
  5. 1200 px is a pretty good width.
  6. If there is a blue button, click it.
  7. SiteMaestro is an essential, advanced add-on for Google Sheets that allows you to bulk-copy, share, and manage Google Sites with rosters of students. If you are looking to do student portfolios through Google Sites, this is the add-on you need. 
And if you are wondering how she made the cute, little, animated avatar, check out Androidify.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

TCEA 16 - Mobile Photography

This was an excellent session presented by Leslie Fisher (@lesliefisher on Twitter). You can also visit her website,, and the link for the handout she presented in this session,

Lots of great suggestions and tips for taking better pictures and video with your mobile device. 1. Keep the device stable - use both hands, stable your body against a wall, or stable your phone on a table or tripod. 2. Digital Zoom - if you can don't use digital zoom. Use sneaker zoom (move yourself closer to the object you are taking a picture of). 3. Composition 101

  • Minimize the background by taking a picture from higher than your subject
  • Keep it Simple stupid
  • Fill the frame with the subject
  • keep in mind the rule of thirds - put the subject to the left because that is how we read; put the subject to the right to make an uncomfortable picture -
  • Sheldon, from the Big Bang Theory, sits on the right side of the couch because he is the antagonist to make you uncomfortable
  • place your subject in one intersection of the rule of thirds and if applicable an object, landmark, etc
4. Light
  • take a look and see where the shadows are
  • Shade is even light
  • Fire your flash during the day and it will even it out with light
  • She never really uses your flash during the night
  • are shadows in the way of the subject
  • if they are, can you move the subject
  • harsh shadows during the day? Turn on your flash or move them to shade

5. Use other people's phone flashlight as lighting sources. Make sure to use light from above as it will make a better photo.

She also mentioned several apps that help with your photography. Some of them cost money, but as she puts it what is a few bucks especially to those who make a Sonic or Starbucks run every day.

(I've linked to the iOS versions. Some may have Android version as well.)

Camera Apps:

Camera Awesome - allows for a two finger tap to adjust focus and brightness
Pro HDR - Allows for more adjustment of your HDR photos than just the regular iOS does.

For Editing photos she suggested:

Pixlr - they also have an online version at
Photoshop Fix - this has actually been my new favorite app for quick editing
Snapseed - some great filters and edit features

For Video editing she suggested:

iMovie - but just for the trailer feature.
Videocraft - I have found this app pretty easy ot use. 

For videos, quit recording vertical videos. Turn your camera horizontal to record your video. 
She mentioned the great Glove and Boots video against vertical videos, but didn't show it in the session due to time and a bleeped out word. Not a video, perhaps,  to show students unless you can edit a part or two out. You be the judge.

Finally, this didn't come from her presentation, but I didn find it today. Great tips to take better photos with your iPhone.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

TCEA 16 - Google Draw

Dr. JJ Ayers McKinney Boyd high school


One of my new favorite tools is Google Drawing. One of the sessions I attended covered creating infographics in Google Drawing. An infographic is just data that has been sorted, arranged, and presented visually.

I really liked the site the presenter shared with different "templates" for infographics with six different types of infographics.

Make sure to check out the site for information about each of the six types. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

TCEA 16 - Adobe part 2

Amazing Adobe App Smash
Jessica Mozisek and Rachelle Wooten, Fort Bend ISD had a wonderful presentation about the apps I mentioned in the last post. Specifically, they covered ways to use Adobe Capture, Draw, Slate, and Voice in the classroom.

Here is the link to their presentation with many great ideas.

They had some really good best practices. The following comes direct from their presentation, but it bears repeating because it is very good advice and I give them all the credit.

  • Limiting students to only one app is asking them to miss out on opportunities to create something innovative. Do suggest apps for them to use.
  • Give students a choice for their final product. For example, allow them to choose which final presentation tool they will use. (Voice vs. Slate in our case).
  • Take the time to allow your students to get comfortable with the apps. Demonstrate how the apps function and feed in a short amount of time to let them play.
  • Monitor students to make sure they haven’t chosen an app that overwhelms them to the point of not finishing; however, a bit of struggle means they are learning.

Very good advice for any classroom projects that use technology. Make sure to check out their presentation.

Friday, February 19, 2016

TCEA 16 - Adobe

Ok, I realize I haven't been on in a while. Insert work thing, personal thing, life thing excuse here. 

So starting today, I wanted to start a series of posts from the learning I picked up at TCEA 16 this year. TCEA (Texas Computer Education Association) is a member-based organization supporting the use of technology in education. Their annual convention is usually around the first of February. If you have any interest in educational technology I highly recommend going to this conference. Here is the link to next year's convention.

So, 1st in the post a bit about the Adobe apps I learned more about. I had heard of and tinkered with many of these, but some were new. Here is a quick run down.

Adobe Clip -  easy video editor from your pictures and videos; can add sound from stock soundtracks or your own music

Adobe Capture - take a picture and capture the color theme of the moment to use in other projects

Adobe Draw - draw vector illustrations

Adobe Post - add text to your photos for easy to create social graphics

Adobe Slate - create parallax scrolling websites easily with this app; great for website, electronic newsletters, and invitations; easy to create and share

Adobe Voice - create animated videos from your pictures or stock icons, talk to record your story, and share with the world.

Out of all of these, I probably like Voice the best with Slate and Post coming in close 2nd/3rd. I am still big on digital storytelling as a means for students to create in the classroom. Voice is the project for that. Slate is easy to use and I can see it as a way schools could send out information and students could create presentations. Post is just a fun way to add text to my photographs before I post on social media. Plus, saving to the camera roll on most of these apps is a big plus in my book. I can decide what to do with the project instead of it just sitting on Adobe's server.

The drawback... you do have to have an Adobe ID login. You can use a Facebook account, but that may not help most students. The two presenters I went to handled this in three different ways. 

  1. Have each student create their own account. Not particularly handy if they are under 13.
  2. The teacher created an account using their email address and logged in to the classroom iPads with one account. The problem there is the lack of security as each project from the iPads shows up on every iPad. 
  3. Teacher's created an id based off of their account. If you have a Gmail account you can add a plus sign and number in your email address, create the adobe account, and all email correspondence goes back to the original email address. For example, is my original email address. For my Adobe ID, I could create, so on and use those IDs on each individual iPad. If you want to know more about this watch this video (they use text after the plus sign, but you can use numbers if you want).

The other drawback... The images didn't seem to be filtered. Or at least some images got through that I would have though our district filter would have blocked. So you might use the apps with a word of caution. Perhaps using them personally before turning student's loose with them so you know what to expect.

So go ahead and try these Adobe iOS apps. I think you will like them.